Illustration by Univision Noticias, Jorge Rivas/Fusion

Hector Salamanca was standing just a few feet away from where a coin toss at Precinct 70 in Polk County decided that a tie-breaking delegate would go to Hillary Clinton.

Salamanca says his fellow Iowans were shocked the decision was made by a coin toss. But he was particularly disappointed.

“If I would have been able to vote, I would have changed the outcome,” said Salamanca, a Bernie Sanders supporter, in a telephone interview Tuesday morning.

The Sanders campaign believes Salamanca, 22, is the first undocumented immigrant in Iowa to be named a precinct captain.


In the weeks leading up to the caucus, Salamanca read about the process, attended trainings, and even went door knocking in his neighborhood encouraging neighbors to participate in the caucus. But when the Precinct 70 caucus officially started on Monday night, he had to be silent. Wearing his black Bernie Sanders campaign t-shirt, he watched everything from the sidelines of the gym at Weeks Middle School.


“It was really disappointing because if me and another undocumented guy in the room would have been able to participate, the results would have changed,” Salamanca told Fusion. “Both of us would have caucused for Bernie. That would have prevented a coin toss.”

The Bernie Sanders campaign believes Hector Salamanca is the first undocumented precinct captain in the Iowa caucuses.
Hector Salamanca


Salamanca and his family left Puebla, Mexico for the United States in 1996. His parents left Mexico because they couldn’t find work and came to the U.S. on a tourist visa. In 2003, when Salamanca was in 5th grade, his visa expired and he became one of the 11 million people in the U.S. who are undocumented. Salamanca currently has temporary legal status through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action program.

Iowans say immigration is an issue that’s overwhelmingly important to them. A Des Moines Register poll found more than 80% of Republicans and Democrats likely to attend the caucuses want candidates to talk a lot about immigration.


“It’s a bit of upsetting because the media does these polls but forget to include people who would be affected,” said Salamanca.

“A lot of the people polled have no idea how the process works. I regularly have to explain to people how I can’t just get in back of a line and apply to become a citizen,” said Salamanca, who said most Republicans he meets can only repeat talking points they hear candidates say on TV.


Salamanca said he was disappointed by the caucus process at his precinct, saying he was looking forward to the discussions he could have with his neighbors. Salamanca has lived in the precinct for last six years.

“People didn’t even stick around for the party platform discussions, they just left after the official count was done,” Salamanca said.


There was however one positive memory from the caucus for Salamanca: there were more Sanders supporters at his precinct than he expected.

@BernieSanders glad to be first undocumented precinct captain. Now in observation area #feelthebern

— Hector A. Salamanca (@HectorASalamanc) February 2, 2016